Paly programs affected by transition to online back-to-school packets

Charles Yu and Eric Lu

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A screenshot of the Paly web store shows donation options to contribute to various Paly programs and organizations. Photo by Charles Yu.

The transition to paperless back-to-school packets by the Parent Student Teacher Association has affected multiple programs and organizations in addition to the PTSA including the Fiery Arts program, Partners in Education and Paly Theatre, which rely on donations from the back-to-school packets.

In order to raise funds to counteract a shortage in back-to-school donations, the PTSA is beginning a campaign to draw attention to the budget gap this month.

According to the Barb Clark, PTSA vice president of communications, the PTSA is falling short of its budgeted goal in back-to-school donations as only 61 percent of the budgeted goal has been collected after half way through the normal fundraising period. The PTSA had originally budgeted $175,000 in new revenue that Clark said she hoped would be raised through the donations in the annual back-to-school packet.

The PTSA believes that the cause of this shortage is due to the implementation of a paperless Back-to-School packet this year, according to Clark. Originally, the PTSA had made this change to save on printing and mailing costs and to streamline the donation process by eliminating paperwork, Clark said. 

However, this transition to a paperless back-to-school packet has taken its toll on some of Paly’s other organizations.

“The paperless process has hurt our donations,” said Laura Mackris, Theatre Booster secretary said. “Last year we received 24 checks stapled to donation forms, while this year only 7 families printed out the donation form and mailed it in with a check.  In total our online donations through the Paly store are down by 11 donors as well, so the paper checks received last year were not replaced by online donations for us.”

According to Kathie Schroeder, executive director for the Palo Alto Partners in Education, PiE has been affected by the new back-to-school packet, but is supportive of the change.

“PiE participation at Paly is currently down slightly versus last year,” Schroeder said. “Some of this may be due to the lag in information from those who donate via the Paly webstore.  In general, we’re supportive of the PTSA’s efforts to use less paper and happy to be included in the school’s online registration process.” 

To combat the PTSA’s own budget shortage, the PTSA sent out an email last night to reach out to parents to bring attention to the need for donations and may send a direct letter home as well, according to Clark.

“We raise PTSA funds through a direct appeal letter that provides a suggested amount — $250 per student,” Clark said. “This appeal is part of the Back-to-School Packet — found on the PTSA website — in the form of a joint fundraising letter from the various organizations requesting donations. The funds are collected either through the Paly Web Store via a charge card or by mailing a check to the PTSA or dropping it off at the school.”

According to Clark, the PTSA does not prioritize any one program over another, so, in the case of a budget gap, it is ambiguous which programs will be affected.

“It is early in the fundraising process to have those discussions. When we created the budget we didn’t assign a priority to line items.” Clark said.

The PTSA also believes that the shortage in funds may also be due to the timing of the start of school sports.

“With the early start of school, and the fact that sports teams’ practice start dates, mandated by CCS, were after the start of school, families stayed on vacation longer than in past years,” Clark said. “This did not allow much time to focus on administrative tasks before the start of school, such as purchasing Paly items and responding to donation requests.”

Clark remains optimistic about the PTSA’s current budget situation.

“It is too early to believe we won’t collect the necessary revenue to fund the projects we have budgeted for,” Clark said. “But, as in any organization with a budget, we will need to evaluate our revenue projections and our proposed expenditure categories on a regular basis and make adjustments if necessary.”